Jarv’s Schlock Vault: 2019: After the Fall of New York
“Have them double the guard at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and send six monk squads to comb the area between 34th and 48th street!”
The last time I wandered into the Vault it was to watch the flagrant 1970’s Italian rip off of Star Wars Starcrash. This time out, I’m watching the 1980’s flagrant Italian rip off of Escape From New York called 2019: After the Fall of New York. This, down to the brass tacks, is a cheeky, er, homage to Carpenter’s classic except far more twisted and far more insane. As such, it was almost guaranteed that I would want to watch this film. It is strange and surprising that Europe would look at a quintessentially American film such as Escape From New York and decide to copy it so blatantly, and even more surprising that they would intentionally set the Europeans as the main villains of the film. Still, Italians are crazy, so while I am surprised, I really shouldn’t be.
Contains massive amounts of cruelty to rats and Spoilers below.
2019 opens with a helpful voiceover. It is, unsurprisingly, 2019 and we are now in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Prior to the events of the film, a coalition of Europe, Asia and Africa (helpfully called “Euracs”) pressed the button and nuked the entire planet. There were a variety of unexpected side-effects. The first is that America would be so utterly defeated but more importantly the second is that mankind is now going extinct as a result. The open sores, scarring and other signs of radiation poisoning amongst the population are bad enough, but the cherry on the post-apocalyptic cake is that as a result of all the nuclear fallout the female half of the population no longer produces viable eggs. There are two approaches to a solution here, the insane Eurac one, which has the population volunteering for vivisection or being killed (talk about Hobson’s choice), and the second is the rather more sane American one: hole up in Alaska and hope for the best.
Confusingly, after a pleasantly brief and violent excursion in New York, the film cuts to Nevada. Our hero, Parsifal (Michael Sopkiw) is taking part in a death race. He’s also, incidentally, remarkably free of any of the effects of the bomb. Anyhow, no sooner has he won his race, and received a few bonus points for killing the opponents, than he’s riding off into the sunset with a frankly scary female slave. He’s a nice guy though, and once they’ve spotted a few dead cyborgs, he decides to free her. Next thing you know, he’s been captured by the American government (called, amusingly, the Pan-American Confederation), dragged to Alaska and instructed to bust into New York to rescue a woman with viable eggs. The plan is that they are going to launch a space mission to Alpha Centauri (probably because it’s lovely there at this time of year), and harvest 500 eggs from the poor bint to repopulate the human race. I see a future involving needles and discomfort for her.
Anyhow, the President isn’t a mug, and recognises that there’s something familiar about Parsifal. Which is a fair point, given that he bears more than a passing resemblance to Snake Plissken, a man who famously didn’t give a fuck about the end of the world. So, he sends out two heavies Ratchet (Romano Puppo), a big, eye-patch wearing lummox who is allegedly the strongest man in the confederation and cunningly named New York expert “Bronx” (Paolo Maria Scalondro), a man who hates Euracs with a vengeance and has an iron claw where his hand used to be, to accompany big P into the hell hole. Incidentally, this idiocy with flagrantly obvious names becomes a recurring feature in the film.
Breaking into the city proves to be no problem. They locate a helpful and very funny old wino (“They baked the big apple”) who points them to a path through the sewers. No sooner are they inside Manhattan (after a brief pause so Ratchet can crush a rodent with his bare hands)when they blunder into the rat people. This manky looking bunch are led by a nutty Asian guy who likes beating rats with a whip. They also include the decidedly non-manky, but unarguably filthy, Giara (Valentine Monnier)but more on her in a moment. Anyhow, the rat people capture our trio (Parsifal went to help a midget) and force them to participate in the Rat Hunt, which is a cornerstone of their civilisation. The idea is that whoever bags the most rats gets to bang the female of her choice, and given that Giara is the only one of them without weeping sores on her face, it’s probably a given that she’s spent a lot of time as the trophy of choice. Anyhow, luckily for her, The Euracs attack and our trio plus Giara are arrested.
Which brings us on to the interrogation. Bronx refuses to give anything up under torture and uses his big metal claw to tear out his interrogator’s eyes, but Parsifal under a slightly less scary form of torture (Ania- the main villain, played by Anna Kanakis, offers to shag him) and lets slip that Giara is the fertile woman. Except it’s all a cunning ruse, and he breaks Bronx out, rescues Giara, shoots lots of people with an unconvincing ray gun and makes a bid for freedom. Bronx dies holding the Euracs back, and they hook up with Ratchet. Things are looking a bit bleak, but luckily a midget, called Shorty (see told you about the name thing) turns up to take them to his midget tribe in the sewer. The Euracs aren’t stupid though, and deploy a sonic thingummy to exterminate the little people, and only Parsifal’s cunning use of wax (and Ratchet’s hideously obvious fake out) allow our main characters to escape. It’s fine though, because Shorty knows where the woman is.
Back at Eurac base, the commander is undergoing eye replacement surgery and is pissed at Ania allowing them to escape, so he sets her a deadline- before he sees daylight again he wants them captured, alive, and bought in. Particularly Giara, who he believes to be fertile for no reason other than that the script demanded it.
Our travellers blunder into ANOTHER bloody Eurac assault, only to be rescued by a supremely dodgy circus troupe. The circus troupe are commanded by a large hairy dude called, and this may not come as a massive shock given the other names in this film, Big Ape (George Eastman). Big Ape is a reprehensible scumbag, and is happy to announce to all and sundry that he’s potent, so potent in fact that he’s thinking about auditioning for Jack Hell’s gig in Hell Comes to Frogtown. Parsifal beats up one of Ape’s underlings, and therefore is allowed to claim Giara as his own- which leads to a creepy kissing/ sex scene in front of the full audience. To be honest, I can see the attraction to claiming Giara, but not while some half wookie sits in the background polishing his sword.
Big Ape believes them to be spies, but Shorty is able to convince him of the existence of the woman. The Woman, Melissa, it turns out, is a professor’s daughter frozen in a big cryo tube just before the nukes hit. Luckily, Shorty leads them to her and a convenient Station Wagon to allow our heroes to bust out taking her with them. Less luckily is that the only way out is the Lincoln tunnel, and apparently the Euracs have a fucking huge gun placed at the end of it. Even less lucky than that is that Big Ape is a filthy rapist bastard and has taken a shine to our girl’s functioning ovaries. Anyhow, Parsifal, Ratchet and Shorty go off to a scrap yard to fetch armor for the Station Wagon leaving Big Ape and Giara behind. Big Ape wastes no time in chinning Giara and going and having his way with the unconscious woman (thankfully off camera).
Meanwhile in the scrap yard, our heroes have found the iron they need, but are unfortunately again ambushed by Euracs. Shorty, as big of heart as he is small of stature, decides to go out like a hero and buys his friends some time before a hilarious act of Seppuku. Back in the bunker our heroic group and Big Rapist kit out the car to make a charge on the tunnel, which goes swimmingly other than Big Douche getting microwaved at the end.
All over, bar that Parsifal has to have a showdown with Ratchet because Ratchet is a cyborg and Parsifal is prejudiced. The results of this fight are Ratchet with a caved in head and a very dead Giara, who has just enough time to talk about “One Small Step for Man, one giant leap for mankind and that leap is love” which is, in a totally demented film, an extra layer of insanity. Anyhow, Parsifal and coma girl are retrieved. The end.
Another spoiler heavy review, I’m afraid, and that’s because this time I have to talk about the sheer med-discarding lunacy of this film. Not a god damned thing makes sense, not the death race at the beginning, not the basic premise, not the costumes, not the plan, nothing. It’s a solid mass of contradictions and almost all of them either rewrite something from earlier in the film or just don’t make sense at all. An easy one to pick on is the Eurac’s plan- if you’re trying to avert the extinction of the human race is it really a good idea to take potentially viable humans and subject them to experimental vivisection? And that’s not alone, everything about this script is totally and utterly bonkers. Check this piece of dialogue out:
The President: “The memory banks in our genetic robot tell us there’s a fertile woman hidden in New York. We have got to find her before the Euracs do. Before they start using her for their insane experiments.”
Parsifal: “One fertile woman’s not enough to recreate the entire human race!”
Parsifal, incidentally, is right. There’s 500 eggs being produced on the mission to Alpha Centauri and a limited number of men on board. Say there’s 10 with viable sperm, then that means that there are 5000 in vitro babies produced sharing at least 1/2 of the same common DNA. This means that the next generation down stand more of a chance of webbing appearing than the average West Virginian. This plan, I feel, is doomed to failure. However, El Presidente doesn’t give a red one about this, probably because he’s dying of cancer, so on with the mission!
Each of the various New York sections are also completely insane. I’ve no idea why a subterranean gang of midgets live in the sewers and I suspect the writers don’t either. Neither, incidentally, do I particularly understand what the hell Big Ape and his circus freaks are playing at. However, most of all, I don’t understand the Euracs. They ride horses, and yet seem to be wearing Kendo practice gear, they are also armed with laser guns but these look suspiciously like crossbows. Then, to make matters more confusing they have the high technology to give the Commander back his eyes, but they don’t have the high technology to, say, harvest viable eggs or clone humans? Completely confusing and totally nuts.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t really matter because this is a riotously entertaining film. It rockets along, and simply doesn’t allow anything to stand still lest we realise that the plot has more holes than swiss cheese and the film is barking bloody mad. Events and motivations make no sense; take Shorty for example: He’s got no way of knowing what our heroes are after, yet helps them. Within minutes of helping them the moleman version of Lilliput has been exterminated, yet he still continues to help them. Then in the scrap yard, instead of thinking “you know what, fuck this” he helps them again leading to his act of self-immolation. He’s a brave little guy, but really, this is above and beyond the call of duty. Actually, self-sacrifice is quite a common theme in 2019. Almost every major character that dies, including Giara, dies saving Parsifal and crew. Apart from Ratchet- and it makes no odds that he’s a cyborg, by the way.
Then there’s the character of Big Ape. I’m not sure where to begin on this, and it’s a combination of the writing and the performance. Eastman plays him with a twinkle in his eye (the exchange with Ratchet about the door is amusing) and he appears to be a kind of charismatic demagogue of sorts. However, he’s also a filthy woman beating rapist. Parsifal’s logic that they needed him to protect Melissa doesn’t make sense, because they all should have been microwaved as well, but he’s the only one boiled. He does, however, throw a mean scimitar, which is probably what got him on the trip out of New York in the first place.
Talking about violence, wow, this is an incredibly violent film. Aside from Bronx ripping the eyes out, Shorty’s Hari Kari, Giara’s filleting, almost every single scene in the film contains totally random and utterly gratuitous violence. It isn’t that gory but it sure as hell feels like it, partially because it opens with the slum clearing, which has the totally excessive cremation of the old homeless guy. On this note, I’d like to give a special shout out to Ratchet’s awesome wrist bola thingummys which are a totally stupid, but brilliantly hilarious, weapon.
It’s just occurred to me that I’ve blithered on for 2000 words, so I’m going to wrap this up now. This is a film that I do cautiously recommend. While I had fun with it, it’s completely fucking loopy, nonsensical and not for the squeamish. Basically, if you value sanity and competence then don’t touch this film with a fucking bargepole. However, if you do value stupidity and lunacy then 2019: After the Fall of New York has it in spades. At the end of the day, it’s a blast, but nobody is ever going to mistake this for quality cinema. Basically, is it nuts? yes. Does it make sense? no. Is it entertaining? Yes. Is it an EFNY rip off? Absolutely. So, I’m going to Approve 2019: After the Fall of New York, because I did have fun, but it is a cautious recommendation.
If nothing else, it’s worth a watch for the nutty Death Race at the beginning. Oh, and no rats were hurt in the writing of this review. Apparently not the film either.
Until next time,